Dibrell Solar Farm produces approximately 9,600 MWh of electricity a year. This site features 26,600 solar panels that work in harmony to generate enough energy to power roughly 750 average homes in North Carolina. Construction for this project began in January 2013 and was completed in just 14 weeks.
The Dibrell project provided over $250,000 in direct expenditures in Rockingham County for wages, lodging, and supplies. The result was an increase in the property tax base of Rockingham County of approximately $12 million, without requiring additional schools, sewers, roads, or other county services.
"In the early 1920s, my grandparents purchased a farm in Rockingham County, North Carolina in a small, rural community called Pelham. In its prime, my grandparents ran the farm with a workforce of about twenty employees that lived in homes along the main road. Teams of mules plowed the fields and tobacco blanketed the hilltops in every direction. Many of the farm’s employees began working on the farm in their twenties, raised their families, and retired to watch their own grandchildren play along the banks of the fishing ponds scattered around the farm. It was a good life and a simple life. As it passed to my father’s generation, the tobacco industry was in decline. Foreign markets opened new competition for local growers. It was not long before the furrowed fields gave way to allotments and alternative operations were considered as the search for attainable profit margins continued. For most of my childhood, the answer seemed to be in dairy. However, for many of the same financial reasons, the dairy gave way to a cow-calf operation consisting of raising beef with a workforce about 5 employees. The families and homes steadily disappeared from the hillsides just as the tobacco had. As the farm has fallen to the third generation, we find ourselves in a very different world than our grandparent’s and father. Small farms across this state, like my family’s farm, are facing economic extinction. It is no longer a simple life and our family struggles to balance the quality of life we provide for our employees with economic necessity. We have had to find new ways to supplement traditional farming operations including seasonal corn mazes, weddings and even house rentals.
The introduction of the solar array to our farming operation has provided our family with the supplemental support needed to weather the uncertainties of seasonal yields and ensure the financial stability of our farm.
It was this same necessity for alternative cash streams that led us to the solutions provided by solar energy for North Carolina’s farmers today. This was not a decision taken lightly or one without initial hesitation. It was, after all, the legacy we would leave to the next generation.
It is not just a short term fix, but a sustainable alternative that has provided our family with the knowledge and peace of mind that the legacy we leave to our children is not one of financial burden, but is instead the return to the simpler life.